The largest telecommunications operator in Nigeria, MTN Nigeria Communication Plc, has shown interest in participating in the upcoming auction of two additional 3.5GHz spectrums by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The telecom giant said having another lot of 100Mhz in the 3.5GHz spectrum band will enable it to deliver 5G service more efficiently.
Recall that MTN had earlier won the first 3.5GHz spectrum auction conducted by the NCC in December 2021 alongside Mafab Communications. Both companies paid $273.6 million each for the licence.
As of now, MTN is the only telecom operator that has rolled out 5G service in Nigeria as Mafab’s rollout deadline was extended by 5 months, which lapses in January 2023.
The company is now showing interest in acquiring another lot of the same spectrum. Note that a draft Information Memorandum (IM) for the scheduled 3.5GHz spectrum auction disqualifies any operator that has previously acquired the same licence earlier from participating.
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“Licensees having Spectrum holdings in the 3.5GHz band are not eligible,” the regulator stated in the IM.
MTN makes a case: While the telecom regulator is to release the final IM for the auction on November 18, it allows stakeholders to make input that will form the final document. Commenting on the draft, MTN said:
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“We note, with concern, the provision of the draft IM which provides that: “the Commission places a cap of 100MHz as the maximum amount of Spectrum a license can acquire in the 3.5GHz band” and respectfully invite the Commission to note that it had provided the assurance that an operator’s emergence as a winning bidder in the 2021 auction of spectrum in the 3.5GHz spectrum band will not be a restriction on the said operator’s ability to participate in future licensing processes.
“The unfettered ability of previous winners from the December 2021 auction to participate in this instant spectrum auction will further engender a more robust and highly competitive Spectrum auction process.
“MTN respectfully reiterates its prior recommendation that to ensure that all the spectrum can be assigned and used efficiently, it will be appropriate to allow successful bidders in the prior auctions of spectrum in the 3.5GHz (or indeed any other spectrum band) to participate in future awards. It is in MTN’s considered View that a cumulative cap of 200Mhz in the 3.5 GHz band would be appropriate across all awards in the band.”
NCC’s response: At a stakeholder forum on Tuesday to discuss the issues raised on the IM, the NCC said it has noted MTN’s concerns. It hinted that the final position on the issue would be reflected in the final IM to be released soon.
The auction of the 2 lots of 3.5GHz spectrum for 5G service has been scheduled to hold on December 19 in Abuja. The reserve price for the auction has been fixed at $273.6 million, which is the price paid by the last winners of the same licence.
However, based on comments on the IM and interactions at the stakeholder forum, only 2 operators, Airtel and MTN, had shown interest in the spectrum auction.